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First human case of bird flu in Texas detected after contact with infected dairy cattle

2 weeks 3 days 9 hours ago Monday, April 01 2024 Apr 1, 2024 April 01, 2024 1:46 PM April 01, 2024 in News
Source: texastribune.org
By: Neelam Bohra, The Texas Tribune
Cattle stand in the burn scar from the Smokehouse Creek fire on March. 3, 2024 Credit: Justin Rex for The Texas Tribune

"First human case of bird flu in Texas detected after contact with infected dairy cattle" was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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A person in Texas became ill with bird flu after contact with infected dairy cattle, state officials reported Monday.

It’s the first human case of the highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza in Texas, and it’s the second recorded in the U.S., according to the health alert state officials issued.

“The risk to the general public is believed to be low; however, people with close contact with affected animals suspected of having avian influenza A(H5N1) have a higher risk of infection,” the alert said.

The patient’s primary symptom was conjunctivitis, or eye redness, according to the alert.

State officials recommend that clinicians should “consider the possibility” of infection in people who have symptoms and a potential risk for exposure, including those who have had close contact with someone infected, contact with affected animals, or contact with unpasteurized milk from dairy farms with infections.

Symptoms can include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, fatigue, eye redness, shortness of breath, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, or seizures. The illness can range from mild to severe, and health care providers who come across someone who may have the virus should “immediately consult their local health department,” according to the alert.

Because eye redness has been observed in these infections before, health care providers like optometrists and ophthalmologists “should be aware of the potential of individuals presenting with conjunctivitis who have had exposure to affected animals,” according to the alert.

The strain, novel avian influenza A(H5N1), started infecting dairy cattle in the Panhandle last week, in another blow to the Texas dairy industry after ranches lost thousands in historic Texas wildfires. Similar outbreaks were reported at dairies in Kansas and New Mexico.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said there is no safety concern to the commercial milk supply. Consumer health is also not at risk, the department said. The milk from impacted animals is being dumped or destroyed and will not enter the food supply.

Neelam Bohra is a 2023-24 New York Times disability reporting fellow, based at The Texas Tribune through a partnership with The New York Times and the National Center on Disability and Journalism, which is based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

Disclosure: The New York Times has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.


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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2024/04/01/texas-cows-bird-flu-human-infection/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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